What Does It Mean to Be “Spiritually Advanced”

In spiritual networks, it is common to label someone as “advanced,” be it the teacher, another practitioner, or oneself. It is pretty common to see someone presenting themselves as spiritually advanced. But how many go further to clarify what being “advanced” really means?

“Spirituality” is a loaded term that is contextualized to philosophy and religion, and conjuring images of crystals, candles, 5 am meditation, yoga, tarot cards, organic foods, and chanting. Yet, it just so happens that true spirituality has no props and all the aforementioned objects and practices do not define spirituality.

A spiritual life is available to all and is independent of one’s background and belief systems. If this were not true, some of us would be somehow superior to others, and one life would be considered more valuable than another – how is that possible?

“Advanced” is a strange term to use with spirituality because it implies being above and even beyond. To the ego, which loves to compare everything and everyone using its meter stick, “advanced” means either “better than me” or “beneath me” (ego is fairly binary). Comparison for purposes of fortifying oneself is a game children play on the playground, picking teams consisting of those most like themselves.

Something more unified than the individual is living all of us and, like a light beaming through a prism, is refracting into a rainbow of colors as each of us. The reality is that we can transform our perception of and relationship to what lives us. We are a differentiation of the One living consciousness that is experiencing itself through its many facets. Do we know this? If so, to what degree?

Spiritual evolution is a matter of shifting one’s attention to identify more and more with the Life that lives us, rather that our bodies, emotions, minds, diseases, and other conditions. No one is faulty at the core. The shifts seem to follow a pattern with common milestones.

To identify with something means to know that you are That – not separate, not worshipping something outside of yourself (and not worshipping yourself either), and not striving toward or pulling in anything because you are That.

I understand an “advanced” state as being increasingly identified with the unifying principle while maintaining an individual expression of that principle. We can be unique without being separate.

Our bodies express our degree of identification with this unified Consciousness through verbal and nonverbal communication. Our bodies are also valuable instruments for accessing and integrating the countless aspects of the one consciousness by happily handing over any clinging to a separate self. The more we surrender ourselves to That, the less we believe we are something superior or extra special. Thus, one naturally becomes humbled by existence as one evolves, while simultaneously understanding more deeply the value of all life. This is not even close to the practice of comparing, labeling, or either celebrating our superiority or wallowing in our self-perceived low attainment.

People who don’t use “spiritual” terminology may very well have undergone a transformation where they have peeled off the layers of separation – perhaps even more so than those who deftly toss around Sanscrit terms. This fact is often overlooked by those looking for superficial markers of a spiritual life. Someone who did not read the Vedas may be closer to reconfiguring their perceptual mechanism.

Transformation, as the name implies, is a fundamental shift in how one experiences life and relates to its processes. Perception changes to the degree that one begins to invent words and imagery to describe what one lives because such concepts do not exist in spoken languages. True transformation is not imagination because the descriptions of the so-called sages (as far back as ancient times) actually match at various key milestones.

For example, I have read Buddhist texts about the Watcher after going through several transformations myself to identify with these successive layers of consciousness. The Watcher is a palpable presence that seems to be observing “you” thinking, speaking, and doing until you identify with that observer. Then, one finds yet another Watcher. Eventually, there are no more Watchers. How do I know? Because in the incomplete state, a Watcher is tangible – there is clearly someone watching and seems to be other than yourself. Mostly, people claiming to be aware of their “consciousness” are aware of one of such Watcher layers. Once you’ve felt one Watcher, the rest are more easily recognizable. Their absence is also very obvious, which happens as one goes futher in letting go into Life. The One Life lives us and breathes us, not the other way around.

Transformation is a fundamental change in the configuration of our multifaceted body, rather than a honing or refining of an existing configuration. To someone who has gone through the change, it is obvious who else has or has not.

An “advanced” being cannot prove to others anything – nor wants to. But such a being can easily see where others are in their evolution toward unification and reidentification. Most important, such a being will not casually make claims about his or her state, lightly choose to become a public figure, or even subtly put down anyone at whatever level of life.

I have run into a number of people claiming something about themselves when it is clear that they have not transformed but simply got their life on stable footing. Also, highly tuned intuition or access to certain nonphysical planes of existence are no indicators of how or whether that being identifies. If “advanced” means seeing auras or reading people’s minds, then we are talking about different types of evolution – many who have not freed themselves can develop these skills but still remain removed from absorption as the One Life.

I am not at all implying that any life stage is more valuable than another. We all have equally important parts to develop by living. We will all make different and valid contributions as our lives unfold.

Someone asked me once why bother evolving or transforming if we are all valuable. The answer is simple – those poised for change will do the work to change – this will feel like the whole point of their existence, while others will have no interest in doing so. In any case, change is just that – something different, and neither superior nor inferior.

If someone is poised for change – especially at the critical points of early transformations, a teacher may come and invite one to complete the process. The teacher is an accelerant for something that may take lifetimes to do by oneself. For someone who is on the cusp, why wait aeons when the opportunity presents to move faster? There may be good reasons.

A clear expression of oneself supercedes any transformed state. Many advanced beings were seen as faulty because they did not express themselves clearly. Maybe they presented themselves as greedy opportunists or just horny, and this detracted from their contribution to humanity.

“Advanced” beings, whether hidden or in public view, contribute many things most people will not recognize as contributions by a certain person – beyond their spiritual talks and pithy wisdom. As one transforms, certain acts of service go on automatic and cannot be not done. In simplest terms, such beings make a difference to multitudes simple by being. They do not care if anyone knows what they really do and who they are.

I am a regular Joe. A mom with a job and two kids. I will remain that until my death. Most people won’t see me as anything else and it doesn’t matter to me. While my intensity is evident, it will be just “intensity” to most observers, chalked up to my personality.

In the meantime, I work on healing and clarifying my own expression. I want no gaps between my authenticity and what I present in everyday life.

Be wary of those who put down the human race or talk about it like a plague – this is not “advanced” behavior. As one gets closer to unification of life, it is impossible to hate or resent it, even while regularly confronting any dysfunction in no uncertain terms. Asserting truth may be seen as anger, but it can be very different from anger – although the intensity may be easily confused with anger at first glance.

Unconditional love becomes not only fundamental, it is simply one’s natural state and has little to do with the sticky, clingy “love” in most couples. “Unconditional love,” despite being misunderstood, is a phrase that still brings hope to humanity and continues to function – for now.

11 thoughts on “What Does It Mean to Be “Spiritually Advanced””

  1. Depending on who you are talking to, spiritually advanced would not mean spiritually ahead, but just spiritually aware. As you yourself state, our language does not cover most spiritual situations or conditions, and in our attempts to express ourselves we screw up royally. Words that make sense to one person seem insulting to others, or degrading, or even humiliating. But for the most part that is not anyone’s intent. The phrase “spiritually advanced” comes from somewhere, though I cannot remember where I first heard it. It may even have been something someone suggested to me when I was talking about something they saw as spiritual. I really do not know. But however it came to me, I do not think I coined it in my thinking. But it did become part of my vocabulary to be used in certain situations. Never did I use it to make myself feel superior, or to make anyone else feel inferior. Maybe it was sheer laziness, I do not know.
    My main point I would like to make, which is really just a reworking of your own words, is that everyone is equal. We all have a spiritual self. And all spiritual selves are connected together. Another way to say this is that all beings share life, and life is our greatest connection. It doesn’t really matter how we say it, just that we understand what we are talking about…

    1. When something is failing, such as language for understanding, or people feel condescended, then it is time for change.
      You did not coin the term “spiritually advanced,” but it has been used in holier-than-thou contexts often enough to become rotten and useless for communication.
      I enjoy recycling and tossing whatever does not work. Same with language.

      It’s like teachers in school systems saying their students are too stupid to learn, when in fact the teacher is incapable of teaching the students.

      Words become imbued with energy during use. We must be sensitive to the ability of a language to serve expression, and discard or renew language that is unclear or carries unproductive connotations. Language should serve us, not the other way around.
      I often come across the phrase “sheeple,” which neither hides nor obfuscates its denegration of the human race. That is not “advanced” by any stretch of the imagination. I recycle “sheeple” whenever I see the word and make something new and beautiful from it, which reflects the actual and incontrovertible beauty of humanity.

    2. RG, even “spiritually ahead” is highly vague. I wrote this article to try to unpack this phrase in terms of observable behavior and the “what” of actual perception. Being descriptive is a way to avoid labels and jargon.
      Also, you cannot speak for others about how they feel when you or anyone else calls themselves spiritual advanced. In this case, intentions are irrelevant – the result tells its own story.
      I throw down the glove to the spiritual community to challenge themselves to deeply love and embrace the totality of the human race, instead of – even if unintentionally – perching on a pedestal of some unclear “attainment.”

      1. I am very okay with that challenge, but I would like to extend it to all living beings, for humans are only one part of the whole of life. If we cannot be superior to ourselves, a phrase I do not accept in the first place, humans cannot be superior to anyone else either.
        As I tried to say, advanced is a descriptor I learned, and have used. As I came to understand life more, I used it less. But I am not about to deny my past. I am guilty as charged, but I hope I have changed. I now speak as often as I can to the equality of all living beings, to the spiritual connections between all living beings.
        As I am understanding your present debate, you are challenging my ideas around “readiness.” Your statement, which I will paraphrase here as anyone can become spiritual at any time, is what takes me to this place. I look at the words “can become,” and I see the truth in that. But how many will become spiritual, even though they can? And what is it that pushes a person to becoming spiritual, or not?
        Why does not every Indian join a monastery or nunnery at the end of they familial obligation years. This is what the Buddha is said to have taught thousands of years ago, but even today very few actually take such an action? Why not?
        I, on the other hand, because mine is the only experience l can know, turned toward spirituality in my formative years, rather than waiting for the end of my productive life. From talking to you I know you also took this earlier path, though you have never said how or why you did (that I can remember reading). Of course, this is your story to tell if and when you choose to tell it. Whether you do or not does not matter, the telling changes nothing. The long and short of it is both of us found a reason to search, and we made our way to where we want to be. Not everyone finds that reason to search, so they do not make their way there. Looking at numbers, just for comparison, the number of humans who take the time to search is very low compared to the number who do not take the time to search. That tells its own story.
        As I said at the beginning of this reply, I am all in favour of changing the language of spirituality. I keep on trying to find descriptors that can work for anyone, and everyone. But who is this really important to? Not to most of the beings in the universe…

        1. Measuring, comparing, calculating returns on investment…real life works for everyone…life is the most spiritual, and very down to earth (so to speak). Relating to all people whatever they may be doing, and wherever they are… seeing them and understanding them deeply…everyday words imbued with feeling of respect, gratitude, and love

    3. “Another way to say this is that all beings share life, and life is our greatest connection. It doesn’t really matter how we say it…”
      I respectfully disagree and believe that it very much does matter what and how we say – words carry energy.
      Furthermore, when one emphasizes separation and does not feel “connection,” then why use words that mean nothing to people or do not match their experience?
      Being unconscious to nuances of the energy in language is just being unconscious and, perhaps, lazy and sloppy. This is a wakeup call.

      1. Yes words carry energy, and to say that spirituality is the connection between all living beings carries a lot of energy. What I meant by “it really doesn’t matter” was choosing between the words spirituality and life, since they both amount to the same thing. How can connections separate? That I do not understand. The purpose of using words is to make people aware of the connections that already exist.
        I am not sure of your purpose in making this comment, Ena. Who is it you are trying to wake up?

  2. If you were sitting in front of an “enlightened” (whatever that is?) Zen Master talking these points, as you’ve just done, my guess is he would raise his Zen Stick and boink you on the head and yell…KATZ!!

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